A powerful brand with an authentic voice incites a connection with an audience. But nothing can be sustained on connection alone. Community—when that initial point of contact transitions to a lasting relationship—is the natural extension of great branding. That’s the major lesson of my talk with Eboni Merriman, founder and creative director of the boutique brand Lost Queens. Our dialogue about the role authentic branding plays in her success (now on EBONY.com) naturally turned to how to cultivate and leverage a devoted following. Eboni offered a few tactics to help creative entrepreneurs strengthen their brand and build their business once their product’s stories start to get noticed.
After your story draws people in, give them an opportunity to become a part of it. Over 150 jewelry lovers call themselves Lost Queen ambassadors, nabbing discounts and free products in exchange for introducing the brand to new customers. It’s a simple premise, with invaluable payback. “I’m creating a tribe of women,” Eboni said. “We celebrate each other when we reach our goals. They come out to the pop up shops and sell their product and use their discount code so that they can get their sales. It’s just a fun program and it’s how we expand.”
You know how to tell when the branding’s really real? When it practices what it preaches. Celebrating Black womanhood is the foundation of Lost Queens’ branding, and it puts its money where its mouth is. 10% of proceeds go back to the community— everything from helping a young woman become a doula to donating to the Eric Garner Fund. The stories behind these empowerment and social justice causes then become part of the brand’s narrative. “Customers love it,” Eboni said. “I get so many messages that they love that aspect of it. I’ll never take that away.”
Go Big in Digital
“Digital is everything to my business,” Eboni said. “My business wouldn’t survive without digital marketing honestly.” Use hashtags religiously and post, post, post, even if you feel like you’re being annoying. “I’m up all times of night, it’s ridiculous.” If you’re not a night owl, apps like Buffer can schedule posts for you.
Make Meaningful Connections
Social media isn’t just for reaching customers. Eboni credits her engagement on social media platforms with connecting her to models, mentors and collaborators. “Follow a lot of different people,” Eboni says. “Genuinely connect with these people and build relationships.”